So I’m one of those really lucky people who had to come out twice (because, of course, coming out once wasn’t fun enough). My earliest memory regarding my gender identity occurred when I was in preschool—I’d be changing, and I most vividly remember that I’d look down and I most confidently thought that I’d eventually get the boy parts I’d always wanted, maybe as a Christmas present. If Santa Claus could get some little girl a pony, then he could sure as hell give me boy parts. (Of course, once puberty came along, I ended up more than a bit disappointed.)
My second most vivid memory happened when I was in seventh grade. Gwen Araujo, a transwoman who lived in the neighborhood where I went to middle school, was brutally murdered one night by several men when they found out her biological sex. Her story made national headlines, and her funeral was at my parish. The story terrified me as a 12-year-old—for the first time, I saw someone I identified with, someone whose mind and body didn’t quite match. And she ended up murdered because of it, and this all happened within a mile or two of my school, a place I thought was safe. It probably was one of the reasons I didn’t come out as transgender for so long.
I first came out as lesbian during my first year of high school. The word “lesbian” didn’t quite feel right, but I knew that I was attracted to women, and “lesbian” was the only word that fit best at the time, and I guess it was also a “safer” word to hide behind, one that people understood more and didn’t require so much explaining.
It wasn’t until fall quarter of my sophomore year at Stanford, when I got involved with the No on Prop. 8 campaign and the queer community, that I finally had a safe space to explore my gender identity. I came out as Cristopher Marc during the winter quarter of my sophomore year. My friends and family accepted me almost instantly, and because of that, I will never take them for granted.
One of the big decisions I had to come to terms with during my coming out period was how “out” I wanted to be. As a transman, I have the blessing of “passing” —meaning, if I wanted to, I could blend into the general population, and no one would know how I was born. Not to mention I’d live a much safer life—I wouldn’t have to worry so much about hate crimes or meeting an unpleasant end. I could lead a normal life. And for a while, I’ll tell you the truth, that’s what I wanted.
But we are at a moment of crisis. This isn’t the time to live a normal life. Maybe I could settle down later, but not now. In a world where LGB youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and where almost half of trans youth have seriously contemplated suicide, this is not a world where I can hide behind a short haircut and a male name. This is a world where something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now.
Today is National Coming Out Day. Today is a day where we are meant to celebrate the experiences of queer people, but instead, we are reflecting on a recent string of suicides committed by queer youth. I find it terrifying, the fact that young people are taking their lives out of a fear, out of a hopelessness that things will not get better. They’re people like me, people whom I identify with, people whom I wish I had known so I could reach out to them.
What’s scary is that I’ve been there. I have friends who have been there. And I’ll tell you the truth—it’s scary as hell, recalling those moments at four in the morning, feeling terrified, trapped, hopeless, and the only way out is jumping off some building or swallowing some pills or doing something horrible to myself. I never want anyone else to feel that way, if I can help it. We don’t deserve to become statistics. We deserve to be people. This is why I am writing this column.
So happy National Coming Out Day, Stanford. This isn’t just for queer people to come out of the closet. This is for you to come out too. Hold a sign. Start a conversation. Be out for someone who can’t be out for themselves yet. Sometimes that makes all the difference.
If you’re queer/questioning or just want to show support and need resources, feel free to e-mail Cristopher Bautista at firstname.lastname@example.org.